Anthrax – Among The Living (1987)
When exploring the top marketing disasters in recent memory, Oldsmobile’s “It’s Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” campaign often makes an appearance.
With increased competition from overseas car companies, GM decided to rebrand the Oldsmobile. The car model had been a favourite of an aging demographic; in an effort to boost sales, GM went after younger consumers.
Unfortunately, the chosen tagline didn’t appeal to either group: younger customers still thought of it as an ‘old’ person’s car (the model name couldn’t have helped) and the existing customer base felt alienated (who you callin’ old?!).
The car was eventually discontinued.
I’d argue appealing to new fans, while retaining old fans, is also one of the bigger challenges in the music industry.
One way to please both groups: find that perfect balance between aggressive and accessible, keep it heavy but with enough hooks. Easier said than done of course!
As Among The Living is my first full album venture into the Anthrax catalogue, I’m not sure if it’s a radical departure from their first two studio efforts. On album #3 at least, they walk the accessible/aggressive line nicely.
The title track, among my favourites on the record, is like a ‘how-to mix heaviness & hooks’ recipe in action:
– start melodically, with a deceptively slow tempo
– add one killer riff (at 0:16), build with guitarmonies & variations
– cue double kick! (at 1:32)
Thrash Metal’s “Big 4” (Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer) each had big albums in ’86 or ’87, all deemed 1001 list-worthy. So far, I’ve only reviewed Master of Puppets but for me, Among the Living is on par.
After hearing the chant-along call-backs in Efilnikufesin, the acronym NFL now has a whole new meaning. And speaking of call-backs, I struggled not to sing the call & answer vocals from Team America: World Police when singer Joey Belladonna yelled “America!” during One World.
Imitation of Life sounds worlds apart from REM’s tune of the same name but when it comes to longevity, Anthrax has outlasted Michael Stipe & company. Anthrax studio album #11 is expected this summer and though the band lineup and sound has evolved over time, I don’t think many fans are pleading with them to retire.
As mentioned above, I may be a first-time Anthrax album listener, but I’m a long-time fan for two non-musical reasons:
1) This great appearance on the underrated 90s show Newsradio
Now there’s a lesson in successful rebranding: how could you not like a band named ‘A Basket Full of Puppies’?!
I was pleased to discover, in addition to a having a good sense of humour, these guys can play.
From → 1980s